Taking photos in museums may not be a good idea after all. That is, if you're doing it for the sake of remembrance. A new study suggests that taking photos may actually diminish what you remember about the objects that you photograph.
A study published recently in Psychological Science revealed that using your camera to document your viewing experience actually impairs your memory of it instead of preserving it. Psychological scientist Linda Henkel who conducted the study claims that museum goers have worse memories for paintings, archeological relics and historical artifacts when they photograph them on display. She calls this phenomenon as the "photo-taking impairment effect."
Linda A. Henkel, a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the Fairfield University in Connecticut, observed that people rely on technology to remember for them. "People just pull out their cameras. They just don't pay attention to what they're even looking at, like just capturing the photo is more important than actually being there."
Henkel explains that depending on the camera to record the event and not being attentive to it fully themselves, can have a negative impact on how people remember their experiences.
To arrive to her conclusion, Henkel recruited 28 university students to tour the Bellarmine Art Museum and told them to observe 15 objects and to photograph 15 others. The next day, the students were asked to remember the objects and their details.
The result showed that participants who took photos at the museum fared worse than those who just relied on their observation skills. The group that took pictures was not only less able to recognize the works they have seen, but also they had a hard time answering questions about the objects' visual details.
"If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects' locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them." Henkel observed.
Henkel also conducted a second round of study where she found out that zooming in to photograph part of an object can actually improve one's memory. She concludes that thinking and paying attention can eliminate the photo-taking impairment effect.